- how an off-Earth base could quickly become self-sufficient -


Nutrition: Chris Wolfe explains in a fair amount of detail about how food grown within the habitats would be able to meet the nutrition needs starting with the Initial Crew.

If the nutritional needs of the Survival Colony are to be completely met as early as possible then a precise set of protocols would need to be developed to provide those needs given a limited growing volume, limited material inputs, and limited labor input. But it first starts with determining what the nutritional needs of the crew are and what hydroponic foods would need to be grown in order to meet those needs

The standard recommendation for daily caloric intake is 2,000 calories more or less depending upon gender, size, and physical activity. The colonists would not typically be doing heavy labor. The breakdown for recommended carbs, fat, and protein is shown in the image to the right. There are also vitamin and mineral micronutrient requirements which can be met from lunar sources and the proper selection of foods in the diet.

Meat is not actually required to meet nutritional requirements. With the proper selection of ingredients, the colonist can easily get enough calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals. But for culinary variety, many people desire to have meat on the menu. But meat typically is a secondary source of food meaning that the colonists would need to produce primary foods such as grains, algae, and insects in order to feed the animals in order to get meat. But as it turns out, many of the plants grown for food are not eaten whole but will naturally provide ruffage which animals can eat. So, as a side benefit of processing plant waste, meat can be obtained.

Fish is an obvious first source of meat. Algae grown in hydroponic sheets can supply food for fish without plant waste. Tilapia is a common favorite when it comes to fish. The ammonia waste from fish can be utilized by plants as a source of nitrogen. Certain insects can eat plant waste. In turn, those insects can be eaten by certain fish.

Chickens are a favorite source of white meat. But, as a food source, chickens are better used for laying eggs. Larger animals such as sheep, goats, and especially cows will be harder to grow due to their size. Given the waste and smell that would need to be managed, these meats would probably need to wait until there was a habitat dedicated to livestock (i.e. the BarnHab).

Given the challenge of growing certain meats, meat alternatives might be considered. Soy meat and gluten (from wheat) are popular sources of meat analogues. Tofu (derived from soy beans) is an excellent stand-alone meat-like food. The Lunar Greenhouse Project at the University of Arizona - Tucson uses soybeans as a primary crop. Recently, meat substitutes such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat seem to becoming mainstream. Beyond Meat uses a plant-based heme for a beef-like taste whereas the Impossible Burger uses a protein from peas.

Another recent development is lab-grown meat. Using a nutrient solution and stem cells, actual meat is grown in the lab using an approach that does not require the killing of a whole animal. Whereas this may be preferred ethically, in the setting of a lunar habitat, it is probably an impractical solution due to the very strict laboratory conditions that are needed and the intensive resources needed to make it work.

So, how can we go from food planted to meeting the nutritional needs of the colonists? Perhaps it would be best to start from the nutritional needs and working backwards. Nutritional needs are met by the specific meals that people eat. So, we could start by designing a menu of dishes with ingredients that can be grown hydroponically and aquaponically. Dishes requiring the same fresh ingredients could be clustered in time so as to reduce wastage and the need for so much refrigeration. Now that we know what ingredients (and hence what plants) are needed this can be used to determine a harvest schedule. i.e. What plants do we need to harvest at what time in order to have the ingredients when we want them? Using the length of time that it takes for each of those plants to grow to maturity, one can then figure out the planting schedule.

A fun project that stems from the reverse engineered diet could be: The Lunar Cookbook. Those who enjoy cooking could help the Achieving Earth Independence Project by taking the list of plants that can be grown hydroponically and developing recipes from those ingredients. A proposed menu schedule (one month or even a year) could be listed which would provide for all of the nutritional needs of the reader. Those with knowledge in hydroponics and aquaponics could include a write-up in the cookbook showing people how they can set up their own hydroponic and aquaponic systems. It would certainly be a unique cookbook, yes?

Food isn't just about getting nutrition -- people want to enjoy their food too. Whereas delightfully-prepared food isn't a strict requirement for survival, it is a requirement for happiness. With good thought, one can improve the tastefulness and presentation of food without consuming a lot of the colonist's time.

Certainly, herbs and certain spices can be easily grown in the initial habitat (UniHab). As common ingredients in food these can greatly increase the palatability of the food. Likewise, salt extracted from the lunar dirt, fermented soy beans (i.e. soy sauce), and the like can be used as seasonings. Thoughtful presentation need not take long and yet enhances the dining experience. Preparing food can be a welcome diversion such that that task should probably be rotated among the colonists.

Meeting the nutritional requirements of the colonists is a matter of starting with the nutritional needs and working backwards to a planting schedule.

Next: Producing Power